Turnbull: ‘I elevated Ciobo – and he turned on me’
MALCOLM Turnbull, still smarting at losing the prime ministership in a 2018's messy party coup, has given former trade minister and retired Moncrieff federal MP Steven Ciobo a smackdown in his new book, A Bigger Picture.
Accusing Mr Ciobo and others of betrayal, he writes in his new memoir, on sale published today: "Every advancement Steve Ciobo had enjoyed in politics had been under my leadership.''
Then, in recalling the events behind his political demise in August, 2018, he adds: "(Former prime minister Tony) Abbott hadn't rated him, and neither did (Scott) Morrison.
"But, a friend of (Peter) Dutton, he still turned on me, as did so many others I'd promoted.
"Now, of course you cannot simply promote your own loyalists, but George (Brandis) was right - there is a profound lesson for leaders here.
"You cannot treat politicians as rational actors, especially those like Dutton, Cormann, Ciobo and numerous others who'd been in the game all their lives. Having come into politics at 50 from the rational world of business, I always assumed people would, more or less, act in their rational best interest. But that assumption is wrong, at least in the Liberal Party and especially with its right wing.''
In the first attempt by Peter Dutton supporters to roll Mr Turnbull, the then-prime minister had hung on, winning a ballot 48 to 35.
"I wondered whether some of Morrison's supporters had taken the chance and voted for Dutton, hoping they didn't accidentally deliver him a win.
"Subsequent accounts of these events indicate (Fadden MP) Stuart Robert and Alex Hawke had organised about half-a-dozen of them to vote for Dutton - enough to lift his numbers up to a level that damaged me but didn't get Dutton over the line. If Morrison's friends had voted the way he said he did, the Dutton insurgency would have been utterly dead that morning.''
He writes several ministers and assistant ministers then admitted they had voted for Dutton and offered to resign.
He named nine include Mr Ciobo.
"Including Dutton and assuming no others, 10 members of my own executive, including four cabinet members, had voted for Peter Dutton. All of them represented betrayals to some degree…''
Mr Turnbull claims Mr Ciobo later told him "he didn't want me to accept his resignation, that the insurgency was complete and utter madness, and he'd tried to urge Dutton to pull back''.
"He said (Mathias) Cormann had been doing Dutton's numbers and had voted for him in the Tuesday ballot.''
He writes Mr Ciobo later publicly confirmed Dutton had told him on the Sunday evening flying down to Canberra that Cormann was doing his numbers.
"He added if Dutton were deputy leader, he'd be settled,'' Turnbull writes.
"Could I engineer Julie's retirement (then deputy prime minister Julie Bishop), he asked, as Dutton didn't want to challenge her because she was a woman. Ciobo also gave me an undertaking he wouldn't support any future spill or challenge against me.''
Mr Ciobo, who resigned as Tourism Minister during the messy spill and was later appointed Defence Industry Minister by Mr Morrison, said yesterday he was "not interested in commenting at all" on Turnbull's version.
After Mr Morrison was installed as the replacement Prime Minister, Mr Ciobo told the Bulletin back in 2018 it had been one of toughest weeks of his life and "brings me no joy at all - Malcolm is a good friend of mine".
Turnbull recalls in his book: "Morrison was clearly getting ready to run. Should I make way for him? At the time, I wasn't persuaded Morrison had been working against me, as many later suggested. Scott's dream sequence, it seemed to me, was for us to have an election on 2 March 2019 as we'd agreed, win it, and then he'd have expected me to retire sometime in the course of that term.''
Mr Turnbull writes Mr Morrison was his natural, most likely and best qualified successor: "While more conservative than me on social issues, (he) was, I believed, a responsible, safe pair of hands.
"But Dutton, were he to become prime minister, would run off to the right with a divisive, dog-whistling, anti-immigration agenda …
"With no constraints, Dutton would do enormous damage to the social fabric of Australia. It's one thing having the tough cop handling border protection and counter-terrorism, but not at the head of our multicultural society.''
Originally published as Turnbull: 'I elevated Ciobo - and he turned on me'